Four minutes which could turn the tide on the Ebola crisis

Grieving parents watch from a distance as their son is carried out of their house on a stretcher and into a makeshift isolation clinic. A boy's voice says weakly: "My dearest family, because you love me, I need you to stop, think and listen." 

The four-minute-long animated video ends with a death. But its title is Ebola: A poem for the living.

The sick boy is treated for Ebola.

It is the latest weapon in the fight against the deadly disease which is devastating the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Created by Chocolate Moose Media and health education innovator iHeed with backing from the United Methodist Church, it is the moving first-person narrative of a sick boy who contracts the disease and is taken to an Ebola ward. His family watches from the other side of an isolation cordon as he tells his story and advises them how to avoid suffering the same fate.

Just before he dies, he pleads with his mother: "I know you yearn to hold and care for me ... to bathe your child in the cool shade of our home. But because you love me, Mama, I need you to be stronger than your tears."

The video is available in eight languages, all voiced by young people. Two of them are the sons of Sierra Leonean UMC minister Rev Phileas Jusu. His eleven-year-old, also Phileas, reads the English version while nine-year-old Peter reads in Krio.

The voices were "our biggest problem", said Chocolate Moose Media founder Firdaus Kharas. "We had to get the exact age and accent because we were speaking directly to West Africans. The emotions would be the toughest because this was a life-and-death situation. I didn't want something too flat or too emotional; the balance was crucial."

Rev Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, said: "Our goal is to provide education that leads to better understanding of the disease and how to prevent infections. Ebola gains its foothold in poor communities where mistrust, resistance to proper care, and lack of understanding of the virus and how it is transmitted is widespread. The Church's advantage lies in its grassroots network of trusted clergy and leaders who live in the affected regions."

The video is available for free download. In addition, the World Bank of West Africa has offered to pay for the video to run a minimum of three times a day in every country affected by Ebola.

United Methodist Communications, the global communications agency of the UMC, is using several approaches to help combat Ebola, including providing text messages to clergy in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Commentaries by trusted leaders encourage cooperation with health programs.

The UN's Ebola mission chief said on Tuesday that the world was falling behind in the race to contain the virus, with thousands of new cases predicted by December.

"It is running faster than us, and it is winning the race," Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4,447 people have died from the outbreak, mainly in West Africa, a fatality rate of about 50 per cent. However, the WHO expects cases to rise to as many as 10,000 a week within two months.